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Thread: Matou Shinji and the Broken Chains (HP/FSN CYOA)

  1. #2821
    "Not interested." Malgos's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by alfheimwanderer View Post
    [X] Kew Gardens




    Writing is in progress. Expect the chapter tomorrow. While you wait, feel free to enjoy the prologue of Gilderoy Lockhart and the Legend of Victini!
    You've got the wrong link Alf.

    Here it is.

    I'm going to read this now, mostly because somehow the screencap with all the purple looks kind of pretty. I know it's all destroyed, but for some reason the purple tone just makes it look so for me. Well and because you wrote it.
    "守るべきもののために、負けられない!"

  2. #2822
    The Dread Nekomancer alfheimwanderer's Avatar
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    Chapter 55. Three Little Words

    For all his usual eloquence, Matou Shinji didn’t know how to break the awkward silence that lingered in the air as he and Tohsaka picked their way through the rockery of Kew Gardens, an expansive area featuring alpine plants from Europe, Mediterranean and Africa, Australia and New Zealand, Asia, North America, and South America. Not that they could see very much of it, given the way the London fog obscured their sight, with only the silhouette of occasional slab of rock or leafy shrub peeking through every once in a while, as they strode along the path.

    In the world of grey, the boy felt almost like he was floating, anchored to the ground only by the warmth of Tohsaka’s hand in his, as his lovely companion having insisted that they hold hands so as not to inadvertently get separated. It was quite a practical suggestion, given how Zelkova and Mashu had already wandered off, presumably towards the Arboretum, with Shinji only knowing where his familiar was due to the link he shared with the kodama, and so Shinji had carefully ignored how Tohsaka had been blushing furiously at the time.

    He really hoped she wouldn’t get the wrong idea. It wasn’t like he liked her or anything.

    Well, not in the way she hoped, at least.

    Still, he was quite aware of her, for how could he not be when the fog was so thick it muffled sound as well as sight, making everything else seem insubstantial, ethereal – making her seem far more present by comparison.

    ‘Her hands are…rougher than before…’ he idly noted, as his fingers twined with hers, his thumb idly caressing the back of her hand. ‘Has Master been rough on her, I wonder? Rougher than she usually would be, I mean,’ he amended, reflecting that even at the best of times, Touko was not easy to please.

    “You were right,” Tohsaka said abruptly as she jerked to a halt – the first words she’d spoken since they’d arrived at their destination.

    “Hm?” Shinji oh-so-eloquently responded, raising an eyebrow as he turned to his companion to see that she was looking down, and wouldn’t meet his eyes.

    “You were right,” the raven-haired girl whispered with a heavy sigh. “About what it would take to win Aozaki Touko’s respect.”

    “Hm?”

    “Damnit, Matou, I’m not repeating myself again, even for you!” Tohsaka snapped, whirling about to let the boy have a piece of her mind, only to swallow what she was about to say as she found her green eyes looking deep into warm pools of grey.

    “Ah, there we go,” he murmured with a smile, seemingly pleased by her outburst. Without even really thinking about it, he brought up his free hand to errantly trace the line of her jaw. “You look far prettier when you’re full of life and fire, as opposed to sullen and quiet, you know?”

    “I…” she tried to protest, but trailed off, shuddering as his fingers brushed her skin, a silent moan escaping her lips before she managed to stifle it, much to her embarrassment. “Thank you,” she squeaked out at last, barely managing to tear her gaze from his, as her face did a fair imitation of a vine-ripened tomato.

    “Of course, Tohsaka,” Shinji replied, bringing the girl’s hand to his lips, where he graced her knuckles with a kiss. Somehow, though it didn’t seem possible, Toshaka Rin’s flush deepened, her knees going weak at the touch of his lips.

    ‘Why?’ she wondered, fighting the urge to fall forward and be embraced by Matou’s arms. ‘Why am I so strongly affected…? It’s…it’s not like he has Mystic Eyes of Binding or something…right?’

    No. For one, he wouldn’t use such things on her – she trusted him that much. And even if he did, as a magus, she would have felt the effects of the spell if he did, which meant it was just her body reacting to his...

    ‘It wasn’t this strong last time.’

    But that had been before he mentioned that he did not hold her in his debt for all that he had done, whispering into her ear that as friends, comrades, and more, they were beyond such things as debts and costs and favors.

    The only thing he had asked, when last they met, was for her to look out for him as he looked out for her, now and in the years to come.

    Words of alliance between individuals and houses, which in times past, had traditionally been sealed with by marriage.

    ‘He doesn’t ask it of me. But the fact that he doesn’t demand it, just makes me want to…’

    …want to give him everything.

    The girl shook her head, swallowing and biting her lip to make sure she wouldn’t blurt out something…foolish and irrevocable as she thought back to a moment of triumph not long ago, when she had finally defeated – no, utterly destroyed - the automaton of Aozaki Touko, and hopefully, impressed the puppetmaster just a bit.

    Or at least, had won a bit of her respect.

    Maybe.




    Not for the first time, Tohsaka Rin had found herself on the ground, every bit of her body screaming in agony from how she had been thrown against the wall with skull-jarring force in the last moments of her combat evaluation. Yet this time, as the smoke cleared, and her head stopped ringing, a wan smile had crept over her face as she saw how the four-armed contraption modeled after the wielder of the Fifth Magic had been reduced to a pair of charred feet.

    “…tell me, do you know the meaning of the word ‘moderation’?” the voice of Aozaki Touko had inquired, the familiarity in it almost mocking as the puppetmaster walked into view, taking a long drag of a cheap Taiwanese cigarette.

    Rin, for her part, had barely been able to muster up the energy to glare at the woman who was supposed to be her Master, but muster it she had.

    “Still, a deal’s a deal. Since you did defeat my automaton, I have to acknowledge you as my apprentice,” the red-haired woman had noted coolly, the corners of her lips drawing up into a predatory smile. “Of course, that means you’re going to have to pay for what you broke.”

    Aozaki Touko had gone on to name a truly staggering price, her words proving to be a more grievous blow than any the automaton had ever struck.

    “Wha—?” Rin had managed to gasp in outrage, her features twisting in disbelief. “You—you never said…”

    “I didn’t think I needed to,” the older magus had intoned, surveying the destruction caused by the detonation of one of Tohsaka’s jewels. “Hm, so this is all a year’s worth of magical energy can do in your hands? Raw destruction with no finesse? How…disappointing for a supposed prodigy.

    To Tohsaka, each of the puppeteer’s words, so laced with scorn and derision, had cut to the quick. Even in victory…even in victory, she had not managed to impress the elder magus. The magus that Matou had impressed so easily, when he had been her apprentice. The magus whose tutelage Matou had given up for her sake.

    “I…” Rin had begun, but had trailed off, not knowing what to say.

    A heavy silence had hung between them for some time. Minutes, maybe, though Tohsaka didn’t really have any sense for just how many were passing.
    “At least you finally decided to take the challenge seriously, even if your technique is lacking,” Touko had said after a while, as a smirk stole over her lips. “Matou talked to you, then.”

    Rin had blinked at the utter certainty in the puppeteer’s voice. How…how had she…?

    “For a so-called genius, you’re a bit slow,” the elder magus had noted coolly, shaking her head as she took another long drag of her cigarette. “Always doing the same thing over and over, hoping for a different outcome, unable to even consider something new. Except for this time, when you did. Obviously, something changed.”

    “I—“

    “You and Matou talked.” Touko had supplied, her teeth flashing white against the darkness of the training room. “And so, you destroyed a gem worth what? Half a million yen?”

    Rin had cringed, because the puppeteer was quite correct.

    Half a million yen, on top of whatever she now owed for utterly wrecking the automaton.

    “Still, it was a good tradeoff, I suppose. The puppet you destroyed was worth about ten times that,” the Aozaki magus had noted, as a urk issued from Rin’s lips unwittingly. “Of course, now that you’ve proven that you can beat one of my automatons, the next step is to beat one without destroying it.”

    “…without destroying it?” Rin had echoed numbly. How…how was she supposed to do that?! Martial arts weren’t enough to stop one of Aozaki-san’s automatons, even with the aid of Reinforcement. Her Gandr shots bounced right off of them. Only her jewels…

    “Yes,” Touko had confirmed. “I will not have an apprentice who cannot restrain her more…destructive impulses.” She’d glanced over Rin, taking in the other’s expression. “Or is it that you just don’t know any useful techniques besides those you demonstrated?”

    “…”

    Tohsaka Rin hadn’t been able to say anything, but the look on her face made it obvious that the puppeteer was right.

    “...and this is the heiress of a family, who inherited her family’s knowledge through a Crest,” Touko had observed with some exasperation. “That’s…look, do you even have a Mystic Code? Maybe an Azoth or something?”

    The Azoth sword (or dagger) was one of the most commonly used Mystic Codes in the Association, after all, with parents often presenting it as a gift to their children for a coming of age ceremony. And given that the Tohsaka heiress possessed a Crest, it would be odd if she did not have an Azoth.

    “I…I left it behind in Fuyuki,” Rin had been forced to admit, much to the puppeteer’s displeasure. “I didn’t think I’d need it.”

    “You didn’t think you’d need it?” the puppeteer had echoed incredulously. “You left your hometown to study at the Association, and you didn’t think a basic Mystic Code would be at all useful to you?”

    “I…it’s not as strong as my jewels!” Rin had argued – or tried to argue, though she quickly shut up when Touko shot her a look of absolute disgust.

    “Believe what you want, girl,” Touko noted after a small eternity. “Regardless, our training sessions will continue as planned, and should you destroy another automaton of mine, you will pay double the replacement cost. Destroy another after that, and the cost will double yet again. And should you lose three times in a row, by not trying your best, well, I suppose Matou will have given up his apprenticeship for nothing.”

    “What?! But…”

    The master puppeteer had merely chuckled at her young apprentice’s outrage.

    “I’m not unreasonable, apprentice,” Aozaki Touko intoned, a thin smile gracing her features. “I’ll even supply you with an Azoth dagger, at no cost to you, so you have something to use besides your jewels. How does that sound?”

    Tohsaka Rin’s mouth had worked open and closed, with no sounds coming out of it.

    “Feel free to be stubborn, but we both know that unless you learn to use something besides your jewels, sooner or later you’ll run out of them,” the elder magus had noted sharply. “You want to make Matou happy, right? Then prove that his sacrifice for your sake wasn’t for nothing.”

    A terrible pallor had crept over Tohsaka’s face at those words, when she thought of what Shinji would think of her if she squandered this opportunity.

    “…fine,” the girl had ground out bitterly, her voice barely audible.

    “Hm? What was that?” Touko had inquired with a smirk.

    “Yes, Master. I understand,” Rin had said more clearly.

    “Good,” the puppeteer had noted, turning to go. “Oh, and while you’re at it, keep working on that other Mystic Code you’re building with Lev’s help. A magus should never be a one-trick pony, especially when your trick isn’t even a particularly interesting one.”




    Back in the present, Tohsaka Rin shook her head to clear it of a not entirely welcome recollection. Her Master was not a very pleasant person at the best of times, and didn’t hesitate to run roughshod over notions and preferences that had long been central to how she fought.

    ‘She’s ruthless, in her own way. As I would expect of one of the greatest magi in the world. But…’

    It didn’t make studying under her any easier.

    At least Professor Lev, who she worked with more often, was a rather nice man, who was always willing to answer her questions or give her assistance if she asked for it. Still, the man was more of a researcher than a fighter, and had asked her to talk to someone else with regards to the specifics of her new Mystic Code.

    “I can certainly help you create whatever you wish, but you have to know what you wish to make,” had been his statement.

    She hadn’t been about to ask her new Master, given how little she liked working with Touko, but now that Matou was here…

    “Matou,” she said quietly.

    “Yes, Tohsaka?”

    “What kind of Mystic Code do you think would suit me?” the girl asked, looking into his eyes. “You’ve…fought many enemies before. You know what it is like to be in a battle. What would be most useful?”

    “What, you ask…” Shinji murmured. “That’s…kind of a big question. I do find myself using my wand a decent bit, but that’s not what you’re asking, is it?”

    Rin sighed, ignoring the little voice in her head that was telling her that since Matou used a wand, he wouldn’t mind if she did...

    “No, I mean, besides a wand,” the magus clarified. “I have…I have one of those already. I’m…I’m trying to build one to surprise Master. But I don’t know what to make. Something offensive? Something defensive? Something more…”

    “Something which would be helpful in situations besides combat,” Shinji advised, nodding. “It’s no good to be so focused on attack or defense that you forget to consider options outside of it.”

    “…true,” Rin grudgingly admitted. “So you mean something that what, makes me invisible?”

    She supposed that a punch that no one saw coming could be quite damaging, but…

    “No, that’s not what I had in mind,” Shinji replied. “Something to improve your mobility, either boosting your speed or helping you navigate tricky footing. Something that lets you see if there’s something being hidden from you by magecraft, or if an item has been enchanted in some way.”

    “Huh, you’ve put a lot of thought into this, Matou.”

    “Of course I have,” Shinji said agreeably. He’d already seen what a powerful force multiplier something like flow-walking or combat apparition could be, as well as how detrimental it could be if one lost sight of an opponent due to magical manipulation or other such. “I want what’s best for you, Tohsaka.”

    Rin, for her part, just blushed prettily.

    “Thank you, Matou,” she whispered.

    “Anytime,” Shinji answered, kissing her hand once more, though he found he had to steady her when she swooned. “Let’s get you to a bench, hm?”

    Tohsaka nodded, and the two made their way over to a seating area, where they talked idly of many things, with Rin particularly enjoying a chance to talk in Japanese, until their companions found them once again.




    The hours passed by as the group enjoyed their outing around London, though soon enough, after a rather disappointing visit to a KFC, where Rin learned that in the West, the restaurant chain offered no Christmas specials, and after an expedition to retrieve supplies for the night’s repast, they returned to Matou Manor to prepare for the coming feast.

    This Christmas Eve, the food for the celebration would not be coming from the Hogwarts Kitchens, as Rin was more than a little tired of the Western food served at the dormitory, and so wanted something a bit more familiar. Mashu was fine with that, as she wanted to try out a recipe she’d received from her superior – something about being Christmas appropriate.

    And Shinji…well, as a gentleman, he knew better than to insist on things being his way when two lovely ladies argued otherwise.

    As such, the kitchen of Matou Manor was quite busy that night, what with several people packed inside, making preparations for a delightful holiday meal.

    Shinji, knowing his limits as far as cooking went, had elected to simply prepare ingredients for sukiyaki, cutting succulent wagyu beef into thin slices to be simmered at the table, alongside diced scallions, shiitake mushrooms, leafy greens, tofu, and yam vermicelli, in a shallow iron pot in a mixture of soy sauce, sugar, and mirin.

    (Silently, he gave thanks for electric hot-pots, self-served meals and how much easier they made life sometimes – which made him all the more appreciative of the portable galvanism-powered device that Sion had sent him for Christmas. Small enough to be carried in his pocket, it turned prana into a steady source of electricity, meaning he would be able to use electrical appliances in places in the magical world that, unlike his house, had not been fitted with prana to electricity converters).

    ‘Though if I’m not on a ley-line, I have to worry about draining myself of prana, I suppose…’

    Mashu, for her part, had chosen to prepare some egg noodles to go with what she'd already placed in the oven: a dish of boneless chicken breasts pounded thin, rolled around herb-flavored butter and Monterrey jack cheese, and refrigerated before being battered with a mix of eggs, milk, more herb-flavored butter and panko crumbs, with everything put into oven and baked for about 20 minutes. Chicken Kiev, the dish was called, named for the capital of Ukraine - though the dish was actually of French origin.
    Already, Shinji could smell the aromas of the herbs and chicken wafting from the oven, his mouth beginning to water at the thought of the deliciously moist and delicately flavored dish that awaited.

    Part of this, of course, was due to the fact that, as a Japanese boy, no Christmas meal was quite complete without chicken of some variety (which Sion, who had provided the recipe knew full well). And part of this was simply how good it smelled.

    He told Mashu as much, feeling good as he saw the young woman smile – though he missed how Rin frowned when he complimented the agent of Atlas.

    After all, Tohsaka, in addition to wanting a taste of the familiar, had wanted to do something special for Shinji, to show him how much she appreciated everything he had done for her. And so, she had poured her effort into making a dish she was sure he probably hadn't tried before, yet would enjoy. In a way, it was a labor of love, as it was her first time cooking for someone voluntarily (and not out of obligation, unlike the times she’d had to cook for Kotomine).

    Thus, in addition to the rice being cooked in a rice cooker, the Tohsaka heiress was preparing the first dish she'd ever learned to make, a dish that through trial and error and repetition, she'd long since perfected, even to the fake priest's exacting standards.

    Mapo tofu.

    A Sichuan dish named for the pock-marked wife who'd first made it at her husband's restaurant long ago, prepared just as it had been in China. The tofu was poached prior to stir-frying to freshen and tenderize it, with fresh garlic and ginger adding an extra layer of flavor to the chili bean sauce in which the dish was mixed, stirred together with a mixture of minced pork, wood-ear mushrooms, and topped with a lavish sprinkling of scallions and Sichuan-peppercorn powder for a wonderful meal.

    Or at least, Kirei had said so. He’d always finished every last bit of it too, so she thought it had to be delicious.

    So it was that after seeing Shinji praise Mashu, she shyly offered him a heaping spoonful of the dish, shortly after having used the very same spoon to test the dish for flavor, telling him that she wanted to make something special for him, and she hoped he'd enjoy it...

    Shinji, for his part, eyed the bright red quality of the suspension with a bit of trepidation.

    Mapo Tofu, eh?

    It was true that he hadn’t had it before, but…just looking at it was beginning to make his eyes water, though maybe it had been all the Sichuan peppercorn powder and chili bean sauce that Rin had put in earlier.

    Still, he reasoned, it would be a terrible thing to hurt Rin’s feelings after she had gone through such effort, so he took the spoon and tasted it, his eyes widening as the indescribable hotness hit his tongue – and then the back of his throat as he swallowed.

    And swallowed again.

    And again, trying to clear the spiciness from his mouth.

    “It’s…good,” he forced out, a smile on his suddenly flushed faced, with Rin thinking that the hesitation was because the boy was enjoying her dish, while in truth it was because he found it difficult to speak with his mouth swelling up so.

    “I’m glad,” Rin replied, relieved as she turned back to her cooking, as Mashu placed a comforting hand on Shinji’s shoulder.

    “You’ve brave, sempai,” she told him, a gesture Shinji appreciated, but only a bit, as he asked Zelkova to go to Hogwarts to grab him a glass of milk, which he had heard was a time-honored way to cool his mouth down when water just wouldn’t do.

    ‘And some Christmas cake as well, since I don’t think any of us will make any.’

    ‘Yes, Master.’

    Thankfully, the milk arrived in time to save his voice, and with the combined efforts of the three cooks, plus the (unknowing) contribution from the Hogwarts House Elves, there was plenty to go around that night – and plenty of leftovers.

    Both Mashu and Rin enjoyed his sukiyaki, as neither had previously had much occasion to try the dish, just as Shinji and Rin had dug into the Chicken Kiev with relish, but at the end of the evening, a rather large platter of spicy Mapo Tofu remained – far more than any one person could hope to eat.

    ‘I hope Rin isn’t too disappointed that we didn’t eat much of her cooking…’ he thought, though the boy could see how her face had fallen as he’d taken generous second helpings of the chicken kiev, but had limited himself to a token potion of the Mapo Tofu, declaring that he would save the best for last – only to say, sadly, that he had no room. ‘I guess I’ll have to take it with me. Somehow. I don’t want Tohsaka to feel like her efforts were a waste, after all…’

    But how? He couldn’t exactly bring a container of non-western food to Hogwarts, in case he got caught with the “contraband.”

    ‘Ah. I have it. The Book of Potions. Perhaps Zygmunt Budge will appreciate a Christmas treat. Or I can use it as a potions ingredient. Maybe.’

    Or…

    ‘You haven’t eaten anything, Zelkova. Would you like to try some of Tohsaka’s cooking?’

    ‘That’s quite alright, Master. Human food is not necessary for my continued survival,’ the kodama replied diplomatically, content to look on as the group talked and ate long into the night, until it was the eve no more, and with a dramatic flourish, Zelkova delivered the presents the gathered humans had all procured for one another (as he neither asked for, nor gave presents, being a familiar).

    For Rin, there was a stuffed black cat from Mashu, with the strawberry blonde explaining that Rin often seemed lonely, as well as a book of runes from Shinji, with the boy noting that her new Master would be appreciative.

    For Mashu, there was a set of lovely silver earrings shaped like lily blossoms from Rin, and an elegant purple yukata, with an intricately patterned red and gold obis (and matching parasols), something that Shinji said would look good on her if she ever came to Japan (something which only heightened Rin’s suspicions regarding the nature of their relationship).

    Rin had given Shinji a self-geis scroll, saying that if there was ever anything he needed of her, to merely ask, and she would do it. His gift from Mashu, on the other hand, was a set of contacts that could prevent him from being affected by line-of-sight abilities such as Mystic Eyes of Binding…or the more direct applications of a satori user’s abilities.

    And of course, Shinji, in his largesse, had one more present for both of them – elegant black dresses from Fashion House LeShin. One (meant for Mashu) was a long black gown patterned with silver traceries, with the one meant for Rin was a more provocative affair, coming down only to mid-thigh as part of a set with stockings and thigh-high boots. Both, of course, had a built-in suite of hair/eye-color changing charms that could be switched on and off at will (something that Rin first learned when her eyes went grey and her hair went white, much to her shock – and Mashu’s amusement).




    Choice 181: Shinji is spending the night (and morning) with Luna before he heads to Durmstrang for the ball, with Zelkova having remained at his manor. Is there anything special he'd like to do for Christmas morning, aside from procuring gifts or the like?

    [ ] Have Luna meet Rin and Mashu again
    [ ] Cook her breakfast in the Room of Requirement
    [ ] Enjoy Christmas with the Ghosts
    [ ] Smuggle her to Durmstrang and show her the school
    [ ] Let her decide
    [ ] (write-in)
    Last edited by alfheimwanderer; July 12th, 2017 at 12:24 AM.
    "The palaces of kings are built upon the ruins of the bowers of paradise." - Thomas Paine

  3. #2823
    [X] Have Luna meet Rin and Mashu again

  4. #2824
    The Dread Nekomancer alfheimwanderer's Avatar
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    I'll be on IRC, if people want to discuss things.
    "The palaces of kings are built upon the ruins of the bowers of paradise." - Thomas Paine

  5. #2825
    I'm undecided right now, but I'm leaning towards either 「let her decide」 or 「spend it with the ghosts」. Letting her decide speaks for itself, but the ghosts are a group that Shinji got a fair bit of influence with back in second year. There hasn't really been anything since then, but they could be useful if we're really serious about this rebellion thing. And I don't think Luna would at all mind the idea of spending Christmas with ghosts; it actually seems like the sort of thing she might like.

  6. #2826
    I hope that Luna and Rin meeting again won't be Hermione 2.0

  7. #2827
    The Dread Nekomancer alfheimwanderer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Desann View Post
    I hope that Luna and Rin meeting again won't be Hermione 2.0
    I'm sure it won't end up with Rin running into the rain, helpless and alone. After all, 1) its not raining, and 2) her pride would keep her from doing so!
    "The palaces of kings are built upon the ruins of the bowers of paradise." - Thomas Paine

  8. #2828
    Quote Originally Posted by alfheimwanderer View Post
    I'm sure it won't end up with Rin running into the rain, helpless and alone. After all, 1) its not raining, and 2) her pride would keep her from doing so!
    That and the fact that Hermione was hit over the head suddenly that Shinji might have other girls around him that did not know about her, the 'one true' girlfriend, where as Rin already knows about her rivals or potential rivals.

    No Rin's downfall is likely to come from another direction. If I had to guess, I will say that Rin jealousy will explode one day, causing Rin to say something that she shouldn't that will really piss Shinji off, to the point that things break between the two. The most likely source will be if Rin ever bad mouths Shinji's mysterious benefactor and he hears about it. Then again Rin's downfall might not be that she pisses off Shinji but all of the other girls around him to the point that they deal with her, or baring their niceness, cause their familiars to step in.

    [X] Let her decide

    Because I trust Luna to come up with something better than what we can come up with, since Luna knows Shinji mood's and needs better than he does. Plus we spent a lot of time this year, having Shinji showcase his traditions to people, why not let Luna showcase hers? Or at least showcase the version that she hopes she will have for the future.
    Last edited by Skull Leader; July 12th, 2017 at 02:43 PM.

  9. #2829
    The Dread Nekomancer alfheimwanderer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Skull Leader View Post
    That and the fact that Hermione was hit over the head suddenly that Shinji might have other girls around him that did not know about her, the 'one true' girlfriend, where as Rin already knows about her rivals or potential rivals.
    That and she was confronted with the harsh reality that Shinji didn't think of her like she thought of him thanks to one of Touko's questions. Rin knows Shinji has a lover. Perhaps even a mistress. More than that...who can say?




    Anyway, comments about the presents, chapter, etc? Questions?




    Also, in answer to skulkidcachi90's IRC query, each location would have had different encounters and scenarios. The Charles Dickens Museum is a fun, very Christmasy place, though there might not be a great opportunity to talk there. Learning how to make a Christmas pudding, and doing some hands-on classes and such, would have been nice. Ice Skating would have involved more Mashu / Shinji interaction, with both of them being a bit uncoordinated on the ice (and Rin not sure if she wants to try at all, feeling a bit left out). Seeing Les Miserables would have been quite the experience, involving Mashu, Shinji, and Rin getting dressed up (and Mashu and Rin being given their gifts early to help them disguise themselves), and a chance encounter with Aozaki Touko and the young heiress of the Animusphere.

    Once more, I'm on IRC.
    Last edited by alfheimwanderer; July 12th, 2017 at 11:21 PM.
    "The palaces of kings are built upon the ruins of the bowers of paradise." - Thomas Paine

  10. #2830
    Quote Originally Posted by alfheimwanderer View Post
    Ice Skating would have involved more Mashu / Shinji interaction, with both of them being a bit uncoordinated on the ice (and Rin not sure if she wants to try at all, feeling a bit left out). Seeing Les Miserables would have been quite the experience, involving Mashu, Shinji, and Rin getting dressed up (and Mashu and Rin being given their gifts early to help them disguise themselves), and a chance encounter with Aozaki Touko and the young heiress of the Animusphere.
    And suddenly, I regret my choice. Oh well; this conversation with Rin was probably important, and it doesn't sound like it would have happened (or at least not gone as well) with any of the other choices.

    As far as comments on gifts go, even though it'll probably still look good, I don't think Rin really has the figure to fill out 2B's dress. (Does it still come with a self-destruct?) And Mashu's gift to Shinji will probably come in very handy some day. Especially if he ever has a rematch with Hokuto.

  11. #2831
    The Dread Nekomancer alfheimwanderer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by apsalar View Post
    As far as comments on gifts go, even though it'll probably still look good, I don't think Rin really has the figure to fill out 2B's dress. (Does it still come with a self-destruct?)
    No self-destruct (Rin doesn't need to have her clothes blown off). It does self-tailor/adjust though, so it will always fit her!

    And yes, Mashu's gift to Shinji covers one of his major remaining weaknesses - being affected by line of sight stuff.
    "The palaces of kings are built upon the ruins of the bowers of paradise." - Thomas Paine

  12. #2832
    "Not interested." Malgos's Avatar
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    Enjoy Christmas with the Ghost.

    It may not be a good choice, as without context it sounds a bit like a depressing way to spent Christmas, but it's been a while and I'd like to see more of them.
    "守るべきもののために、負けられない!"

  13. #2833
    The Dread Nekomancer alfheimwanderer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Malgos View Post
    Enjoy Christmas with the Ghost.

    It may not be a good choice, as without context it sounds a bit like a depressing way to spent Christmas, but it's been a while and I'd like to see more of them.
    Who can say? I'm sure ghosts can be quite good for Christmas - after all, they feature heavily A Christmas Carol. And besides, the Fat Friar and Peeves are always up for a party.

    Though maybe not Helena.




    Some notes:

    Servants
    For those who haven't been keeping track, Shinji is likely to summon one of the following three Servants at present, due to his focuses, compatibility, and the catalysts he's procured.

    Francis Drake
    Paracelsus von Hohenheim
    A member of the Hassan-i-Sabbah

    Potions Championship
    I noted some of the legendary elixirs he might be able to brew here. As previously mentioned, what Shinji ends up making will not be the result of a single choice, but the result of all his choices this year. Do recall that he's up against some very stiff competition, and that some of them may well seek to kill him.

    Next Year's Title
    Still being worked out, pending some of the final choices of this year.

    Whose side is Tomas really on?
    His own.

    What IRC Server and Channel am I on for inquiries?
    Server: irchighway.net
    Channel: #fatehg
    Last edited by alfheimwanderer; July 14th, 2017 at 02:00 AM.
    "The palaces of kings are built upon the ruins of the bowers of paradise." - Thomas Paine

  14. #2834
    Traps Are Love Nanao-kun's Avatar
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    Paracelsus would be a pretty interesting servant.

    [X] Enjoy Christmas with the Ghosts

    Edit: Changed vote.
    Last edited by Nanao-kun; July 16th, 2017 at 08:04 PM.

  15. #2835
    The Dread Nekomancer alfheimwanderer's Avatar
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    The current tally is

    [1] Have Luna meet Rin and Mashu again
    [ ] Cook her breakfast in the Room of Requirement
    [1] Enjoy Christmas with the Ghosts
    [ ] Smuggle her to Durmstrang and show her the school
    [2] Let her decide
    [ ] (write-in)

    I do not want to decide things with so few votes...

    In the meantime, as promised, chapter 2 of Gilderoy Lockhart and the Legend of Victini
    Last edited by alfheimwanderer; July 15th, 2017 at 07:17 PM.
    "The palaces of kings are built upon the ruins of the bowers of paradise." - Thomas Paine

  16. #2836
    Nice terminator ref, alf.

    [x] Enjoy Christmas with the Ghosts.

    I like the idea to seeing more of the ghosts, yeah.

  17. #2837
    The Dread Nekomancer alfheimwanderer's Avatar
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    Mm. I'll be on IRC if anyone wants to discuss.

    Working title for the next chapter: the Champions' New Clothes
    Last edited by alfheimwanderer; July 16th, 2017 at 07:14 PM.
    "The palaces of kings are built upon the ruins of the bowers of paradise." - Thomas Paine

  18. #2838
    Traps Are Love Nanao-kun's Avatar
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    After some thinking, I kinda want to see the ghosts as well. Changed my vote.

  19. #2839
    Ehh, checking things out with the [x] Ghosts looks interesting enough, though I have to admit that it's a shame we can't really invest in that direction anymore.

  20. #2840
    The Dread Nekomancer alfheimwanderer's Avatar
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    Choice 181: [x] Ghosts




    Chapter 56. The Ghostly Court

    As the sun rose bright and clear over Hogwarts on Christmas morning, few of the living rose with it. Why would they, when many of them had caroused long into the night, taking advantage of the end of classes and, for the Castle’s military personnel-in-training, the suspension of training exercises and the relaxing of discipline for a week, to celebrate the fact that they had survived yet another year.

    Granted, technically speaking, their revels were somewhat premature, as it would not be the end of the year for another week yet, but the denizens of Hogwarts (and Hogsmeade) were not exactly fussed about such particulars, especially their reason to celebrate to rather more literal than in the many years before.

    Only months ago, half of Wizarding Britain’s population had been slain in a single night, with the few who had been there – yet survived – being forever changed by what they experienced, by what they saw and what they lost.

    Some had emerged from the experiences frightened, barely able to leave their homes – or even beds! –for weeks after, so terrified were they of what the next day would bring. Their assumptions and illusions that they were safe in their day to day lives had been shattered, and confronted with the cold realities of a looming war they hid, as best they could.

    Some had emerged angry, angry at themselves for being weak, angry at the Ministry for not being able to prevent it, angry at the world (or whatever higher power they believed in) for allowing this to happen – and for taking no action to punish to guilty. They had sworn to themselves that they would become strong, whatever it took, that they would forge themselves into wizards and witches capable of great and terrible things, that when evil came and threatened their homes and families once again – in whatever form it took, they would beat it off and laugh in its face.

    Some had emerged twisted by hatred, swearing vengeance upon those they saw as guilty, unconcerned with such trifles as truth or innocence, so long as what they saw as justice came to pass. In seeking to slay monsters, they had become monsters themselves – and in the one case where they acted rashly and openly, had been brutally put down by a man who was far more monstrous than they.

    And some didn’t know what to think, and were happy to let the Ministry – and the Boy-Who-Lived, the young hero who had bested not only the previous Dark Lord, but a mighty dark wizard who had served Grindelwald, do the thinking for them. They simply carried on as usual, going about their lives as though nothing had happened, save for when circumstances necessitated otherwise.

    All of these were represented among the wizarding population of Hogwarts, whether student or Professor, Auror or military trainee, a population under a great deal of tension from without and within, as they went about their routines, factions shifted and formed, and various individuals played games of influence and chance, casting the die and seeing what ends might come.

    In other years, tensions had not been ratcheted to such heights, as they had been relieved by the simple expedient of students (and staff) being able to leave the castle now and again, for day trips to Hogsmeade, the Winter Holidays, or simply urgent personal business, but this year, things had been quite different, as no one – save for the Head Auror, the Boy-Who-Lived, and of course the beautiful daughter of the head of the Department of War – had been allowed to leave at all.

    Naturally, some arrangement had to be made for the rest, however, lest tension explode into…more pronounced displays of unpleasantness, and so the Winter Festival – as Acting-Headmistress McGonagall, in (very) reluctant cooperation with Gilderoy Lockhart, had styled the weeklong celebration – had come into being, an event marked by public feasting, displays and demonstrations of might and magic, and a distinct lack of enforcement for most minor violations of the rules.

    The kitchens were kept busy night and day, as butterbeer and firewhiskey, along with the many foodstuffs they accompanied, flowed like water.

    By day, students caroled in the halls, pelted each other with snowballs, watched plays and masques and performances, or held contests of one-ups-manship to see who could cast the most impressive spells, brew the most exquisite potions, or sometimes, stomach the most disgusting flavor of Every Flavor Beans.

    By night, of course, some of the carousing and celebration moved elsewhere.

    Some had received invitations to exclusive parties and receptions, private parties thrown by one Professor or other to honor particularly high-achieving students (or to assess those who seemed especially promising in a more intimate environment).

    Some retired to the Common Rooms of their Houses for talk and drink and more private amusements of all sorts, enjoying games of Exploding Snap, Wizards Chess, Gobstones or other such.

    And some of course, found out of the way broom closets, bathrooms, classrooms and other unused nooks and crannies of the castle, where they could indulge in simpler pleasures away from the prying eyes of their fellows, whiling away the hours by snogging, shagging or even buggering those they fancied, those whose company they found enjoyable when somewhat inebriated, or those they quite frankly despised (and quite vocally so!).

    By comparison, the revels of Professors and Aurors were somewhat more sedate, as they shared glasses of one brew or other, perhaps danced a bit, and talked of many things, from the news to stories of particularly troublesome students and trainees, from what they wished might be or adventures from their own misspent youth, when things had been far more innocent.

    And well, in the event more amorous liaisons did occur, well, they had proper beds for that – no need for sneaking around as if they were naughty children!

    The ghosts of Hogwarts cared not for the revels of the living though, as mortal celebrations of the past and present held no joy for them. They had no wish to reflect on the past year – or on their lives – for their existences were, by nature, reflections of the past, and when they weren’t distracted by things in the present, they tended to spend much of their time thinking – or talking – about their regrets – the House Ghosts most of all.

    Sir Nicholas, for example, had often brooded about his disastrous attempt to court a lady in waiting by making her more beautiful, and the centuries of torment and ridicule he’d endured as Nearly Headless Nick, though to be fair, since his complete beheading two years ago, his complaints had all but stopped, as the new experience of being a Headless Huntman was still – startlingly – novel and strange.

    The Fat Friar, while quite genial to students, had been known to complain to his fellow ghosts – at great length and volume – about the unfairness of his lot in life, as he considered it positively unjust that he had been executed for being able to cure the pox! Left unsaid, of course, was the fact that he had claimed that his miraculously healing power was a gift from God, allowing people to think him a living Saint in the thought that it might improve his chances of being made a bishop – no, a cardinal, which had led quite understandably to his execution as a heretic and a witch.

    (After all, if the Church had slain legitimate saints such as Jeanne d’Arc due to political motivations, a mere fake such as the Fat Friar would be treated no better.)

    The Bloody Baron, by contrast, had developed a reputation for silent brooding – something that some, including Peeves, the resident Poltergeist, and most of the students of Hogwarts, considered intimidating, though his fellow ghosts mostly thought him pretentious, needlessly angsty, and fairly bad company in general. Yes, yes, he’d probably died a terrible and unjust death – but so had everyone else, and you didn’t see them carrying heavy chains, and groaning and clanking in the Astronomy Tower at all hours!

    And then there was the Grey Lady, who in life had been Helena Ravenclaw – though few enough knew that as she was even less talkative than the Bloody Baron, at least to her fellow ghosts. She preferred the company of the living, particularly those who were witty, charming and considerate – which often, but did not always, mean Ravenclaws.

    That this meant she often lingered around the replica of her mother’s diadem in the Common Room of the House, or had cause to wander past one of the tapestries depicting her as she had been in life, was something few of the living ever thought about.

    There were other ghosts, of course, such as Edmund Grubb, who had gorged himself to death during one of the Hogwarts Feasts many years ago, and had in fact, died in the doorway of the Dining Hall, a Black Knight who had died of blood loss after losing his arm in a duel (for which he’d refused treatment, claiming out of misplaced pride that it was merely a flesh wound), Moaning Myrtle, who haunted the bathrooms of the castle and was known to harass particularly good looking boys, and Professor Cuthbert Binns, the only ghost in the history of Britain to hold a faculty position.

    The last of these, being the second newest ghost at Hogwarts, had the responsibility of organizing the annual Christmas gathering for his fellow spirits. Ordinarily, the duty would have fallen to the newest of them, but all had agreed that Moaning Myrtle was both too flighty to be a good organizer and would not at all be suitable for the role of hostess, so Professor Binns had retained the position.

    This was simply the first year that the Spectral Celebration had been officially recognized by the living, as, in accordance with the acting Headmistress’ instructions, it had been listed on the official Hogwarts Calendar of Events, like every other Professor-run gathering. Of course, like those other events, attendance was invitation-only, at least for the living and for Peeves.

    His fellow late wizards and witches needed no such thing, as few would be able to stop them from crashing a party if they wanted to attend, and besides, this, even more so than Deathday celebrations, was something for them.

    Still, he supposed that it wouldn’t be remiss to invite perhaps one – or two – of the living, again, especially with the Grey Lady asking him to do so as a personal favor, as she did once or twice a century. In his experience, it was almost always worth listening to her requests, and well, even if he wasn’t already inclined to do so…

    ‘…one of them is allowing me to borrow their Tower, so it would only be polite.’




    In the small hours of the morning, just after the sun rose above the horizon, Matou Shinji and Luna Lovegood found themselves standing before the entrance to Founders Tower, having meandered there, hand in hand, after a pleasant night together in the Room of Requirement.

    Shinji, who had never quite been a morning person, was blinking as he re-read the invitation he held in his hands, the jet-black envelope serving as quite the contrast to the elegant white robes of white he woe, decorated with patterns of silver and pale blue that resembled vines (or perhaps circuits) and almost glowed in the light.

    “Are you…sure about this, Luna?” the boy from the east inquired of his companion, who was attired in a white gown with similar stylings – one very much like that which she wore when fused with Zelkova, though she was not fused today.

    The outfit was one of Shinji’s gifts to her, as the onmyouji, having been rather taken with her appearance during the Halloween Ball the year before, and modelling LeShin’s Moonlight collection after it, had gifted her the first dress made for the Collection – one akin to those the Champions would wear during their dance later in the day.

    “You wouldn’t rather do something else?” he continued, raising an eyebrow. “I wouldn’t mind just spending a few hours with you walking around the castle, or enjoying the gardens, instead of…”

    The young practitioner of witchcraft trailed off, recalling the noise that had passed for music and the frankly rotten food during Headless Nick’s Deathday Celebration. That had been no place for the living, as much as he’d made the most of it.

    Luna squeezed his hand reassuringly.

    “Trust me,” the blonde said dreamily, with Shinji nodding, just as Professor Binns himself came through the door.

    “Ah, Mister Matou. Miss Lovegood,” the ghostly Professor said at the sight of them, his voice dry and reedy, much like an old vacuum cleaner. His spectral eyes widened as he took in the matching outfits for the young people before him, of a quality unlike anything he’d seen before – not that he was by any means an expert in modern fashion. “Merry Christmas to you.”

    “And to you, Professor Binns,” Luna replied, as Shinji simply nodded, surprised to see Binns so…lucid, given how he remembered him from his first year.

    “It is not often that we invite live ones to our Yuletide gathering,” Binns noted with grave solemnity. “Not since young Tom Riddle more than fifty years ago, in fact.”

    “We’re honored,” the onmyouji answered with a small bow, even as his mind raced at the mention of Tom Riddle. “Riddle, you said?”

    “Yes, a charming young man, with many questions, much like you,” Binns commented. “The Grey Lady’s favorite, once upon a time.”

    “Ah. I see,” Shinji remarked. He supposed that Tomas could be charming if he chose to, though he had never seen it for himself – not that Tomas had any reason to be charming towards him.

    “I do wonder what became of him,” the ghostly professor mused absently. “He always seemed destined for great things…”

    Shinji, for his part, said nothing, as he thought it was a kindness that the former History Professor didn’t know what had become of his old student.

    “But here I am, lost in the past, when my thoughts should be anywhere but there on today of all days!” Binns remarked, something like a laugh escaping his lips. “Where are my manners? Come in, come in!” the ghost insisted, beckoning at the closed door.

    “Thank you,” Luna said kindly, as she slid her keycard and wand into the corresponding slots in the doorframe, and the wall parted for her and her companion. With her hand tucked into the crook of her companion’s elbow, they ascended the stairs together, as they had when she had first been inducted into the Stone Cutters, more than a year ago.

    “Nervous?” She asked the boy beside her, as he had asked her, long ago.

    “Not with you by my side,” Shinji replied with a warm smile, causing his companion’s cheeks to color rosily, and her hand to tighten about his arm.

    When they reached the top, they found that all the ghosts of the Castle – and Peeves – had gathered there, with Headless Nick bowing to them, sweeping his head off his neck, as some might do with a hat, and the Grey Lady simply nodding and gesturing to two seats near her.

    “Ghosts of Hogwarts, honored guests,” the voice of Cuthbert Binns rang out, as all took their spaces. “Welcome to our Yuletide gathering. As with every other year, we assemble in Founders Tower, a place of many memories, and much history, but we do not do so to remember. We remember enough each day of our existences. We see the past and the present, and wonder, always, what might have been, had a different path been taken.”

    “Live ones celebrate the end of the year with earthy revels, with food and drink and song, but that is not for us this day. The pleasures of the flesh are beyond us, and so too, the power to change our fate.”

    “Yet our fate can be changed,” the pearly white form of Headless Nick interjected, as the Gryffindor House ghost glancing over at Matou Shinji. “Or am yet Nearly Headless, young Cuthbert?”

    A round of chuckles broke out, though Binns merely nodded.

    “You are not, Sir Nicholas, but what changed your fate was not you – but a live one,” the Professor noted, as the others made a considering sound. “He who was close to Miss Sokaris, who walks with a spirit, and who is the companion of Miss Lovegood here, who is a good influence on Peeves and has graciously allowed us to use the Tower, even though she is present at Hogwarts.”

    “If by good influence you mean she allows Peeves to chase witches and wizards with knives, and has made him more dangerous,” Nick grumbled repressively, shooting the poltergeist, in his usual form of a little man with wickedly slanted orange eyes and outlandish hat, a dark look.

    “Peevesy’s job as a Stone Cutter – training the wee ones!” Peeves shot back, as Binns sighed.

    “Be that as it may, this gathering – unlike Halloween – is not about the present. For us, live ones, the Yule is a time of stories. Not stories of our lives, of things already set in stone, but of those whose fates have yet to be written. For us, the Yule is a time of possibilities and might yet bes, of dreaming, the one day a year when we are free to imagine.”

    “On this day,” the Grey Lady interjected, speaking up for the first time in a good while, “we recount the future. We speak of things that might yet be as if they are things that yet have been, and so see something new.”

    Something fresh.

    “Each of us will tell a tale – or several – concerning a person yet living, one who might one day number among us,” Binns smoothly continued, picking up where the Grey Lady had left off. “And then, we will part, returning to the present.”

    Out of the corner of his eye, Shinji could see Peeves fidgeting.

    “Peeves, since you’re so anxious to speak, why don’t you begin?” the former History Professor said dryly, as the strangely dressed Peeves rose into air and bowed with a deep flourish.

    A deathly hush fell over the room as he gestured for silence, and then, the poltergeist began to speak.

    “Did you ever hear the tragedy of the Boy-Who-Lived?” he asked in a low, conspiratorial voice, glancing over at the gathered ghosts – and very carefully – not at the living invitees. “I thought not,” Peeves said with satisfaction. “It's not a story the living would tell you. It's a ghost tale – tale of death and dying – and betrayal.”

    Shinji frowned at this, though he thought it would probably be rude to interrupt.

    “In life, the Boy-Who-Lived was a legend among the British,” Peeves related, “so talented and gifted in magic that even the Killing Curse could not touch him. He was a very ambitious sort, who wanted to protect everyone, and for a time he did, with abilities few had ever seen in the West.”

    The poltergeist trailed off and shrugged, apparently coming to the end of his narration.

    “…and then what happened?” the Fat Friar demanded.

    Peeves smirked.

    "In rising to the Wizengamot, he became powerful, so powerful that the only thing he truly feared was losing all he had gained, lest he no longer have the ability to protect those in his sight. Yet lose it he did," the poltergeist said into the quiet, pausing to laugh – an oily, unpleasant sound that Shinji had never heard before. "Tragically, he trusted his oldest friend with everything he knew, and in the end, his oldest friend betrayed him. Ironic, that in his quest to protect everyone, he could not even protect himself."

    "If you want a story, how about that of Rachelle Lestrange?" someone spoke just as Peeves finished, with Shinji realizing a moment later that he was the one who had spoken – and more than that, that he had jumped to his feet, with the eyes of all present on him. "A great beauty of Beauxbatons, who had no interest in things like love or music, who wanted nothing more than to become the greatest Alchemist in the world. She was a master potioneer, descended from an ancient line, and possessed powers and abilities some might consider…unnatural."

    "Unnatural?" the Fat Friar questioned, somewhat peevishly that he'd gone out of turn.

    "Necromancy," Shinji stated bluntly, smirking as he saw some of the ghosts – and Peeves – shudder at the mere mention of the fearful word. "With runes and potions and a blade as ancient as it was terrible, capable of severing even souls, she was a beautiful grim reaper, with no equal on the battlefield, until one day she met her true rival, or perhaps her perfect match in brewing…and war."

    "What? You mean you?" one of the ghosts in the audience sniggered. The speaker was an armless Knight Shinji didn't remember meeting. "Rather poor taste to tell a story about yourself, I say. Especially a love story featuring another woman when yours is right here."

    "No, not I," the boy from the east demurred, his eyes flashing in the dim blue light. "A woman from a land of winter and old night, who had no use for titles or appearances or the trappings of power, merely the victories it made possible. They clashed. Tested one another. And eventually found that they understood one another, as love blossomed on the battlefield."

    The boy trailed off, with some of the ghosts looking at each other as if to ask 'was that it?'

    "And then what happened?" Sir Nicholas all but demanded, giving voice to their collective frustration. "Did she become the greatest Alchemist in the world, with this mysterious new witch by her side? Did she lose her lover and become a Dark Witch out of vengeance? Did she give up her arts to pursue a career in oh, pottery or some nonsense? Don't just leave us hanging!"

    "She helped save the world," Shinji said cryptically. "Alongside a giant who carried the world on his shoulders."

    With that, Shinji sat down, leaving the audience fairly unsatisfied. For while Matou Shinji was many things, after all, a master storyteller was not one of them, not yet. Some began to wonder if he should have been invited at all, even if he had done them a service, or if—

    "An interesting tale," Professor Binns interjected, before the murmurs and whispers of discontent could become any more than that. "It reminds me of a goblin story. Those, you see, always have a hole in the middle, for a listener to fill in. Haven't heard one of those in a long time. Not suitable for the tastes of most wizards, but interesting all the same. Miss Lovegood, why don't we hear your story?"

    "Then I will tell it," Luna said, rising to her feet in a single fluid motion, a strange lilt in her voice as her silver eyes opened wide and golden light played about her fingertips. "A story of a young man who fled from death, and the puppeteer who saved him…"

    Some of the others leaned closer as the youngest of the Stone Cutters began to speak in the ethereal, dreamlike manner in which she usually did, weaving patterns of light and color to accompany her words.

    "His story begins, they say, with a lost diadem. The very one lost by Rowena Ravenclaw, then found then lost then found again, the last time by a simple boy from the east. He didn't know what it was when he saw it, or what it was worth, merely that his master would find it interesting, so he offered it to her as a gift."

    The Grey Lady looked at Luna with narrowed eyes, trying to assess what parts of what she said was the truth, and what was merely…possibility.

    "He didn't know, of course, that within the diadem was a lost bit of soul. The last remnant of a man who had run from death, seeking a way to become immortal to escape his greatest fear. His wish, as so many are, was granted, but in the cruelest way possible, as having been severed from his mortal form by the last Dark Lord, his spirit was bound to this earth and could no longer age," the petite blonde continued. "The boy's master, a puppeteer with flame bright hair who turned stone and wood into flesh and blood, found this spirit, and gave him life once more."

    "Life?"

    "As much of one as one of her well-made puppets might enjoy. As she herself might enjoy," came the enigmatic reply. "At first, he was bound to serve, to pay his debt to the master puppeteer, but in time, as he grew and served and thought, he began to wonder why he had been brought back to life. What his purpose? What had been her purpose in reviving him? The puppeteer told him that a purpose was something he needed to discover that for himself. That for him to truly live, he needed to choose. After all, a man chooses. A slave obeys."

    "And just what did he choose?" the Grey Lady asked, regarding Luna intensely. "To run once more from death? To trick and connive and raise an army? To become a conqueror like the Dark Lord who struck him down?"

    "None of these," Luna murmured, as those listening leaned closer. "He realized one day that he couldn't keep running. That he had to face the Dark Lord or forever be a slave to fear, for part of him knew that the Dark Lord, though stricken, lived yet. That his ancient enemy was biding his time, gathering his strength before he returned in glory. And too, he knew that just as the Dark Lord had slain him in a ritual to guarantee his own, so must he, given form once more, strike down the Dark Lord, for neither might live while the other survived."

    "This man's name?" Helena Ravenclaw all but demanded. "What is his name, child?"

    "Tomas," Shinji broke in, his voice fey and distant, as all eyes turned to him. "His name is Tomas. A scion of Peverell."

    For a time, all were silent, with the Grey Lady's face taking on a very thoughtful expression.

    "What happens next?" one of those in the audience asked. "Does he win? Or…"

    “The future has yet to be written,” Luna said quietly. “But I’d like to think he would. The world needs more happy endings. There are enough tragedies, don’t you think?”

    With that she sat down, and the storytelling went on, as one then another wove tales of possibilities – some of the Chamber of Secrets being opened, of student athletes growing up to become professional Qudditch players (even leading the Chudley Cannons to victory in one of the more incredulous stories), of conspiracies and charismatic wizards leading goblin rebellions, of love and loss and love regained.

    Happy stories. Sad stories. Tales of fathers and sons, of mothers and daughters, of likely truths and blatant improbabilities.

    Some feared to say too much with live ones present, lest they give offense to one who could harm them, yet as their guests simply listened and asked, they grew more comfortable, more open, until at last, even the Baron told a story.

    His choice was a love story, as it always was. One with a happy ending, too.

    Once or twice during the tale, Moaning Myrtle acted somewhat inappropriately, moving to sidle up to the live male, but each time she froze under the intense scrutiny of two silver eyes, which all of the sudden seemed much less dreamy than they had moments before.

    She contented herself with a simple question to the Boy from the East.

    “…so your master can grant new life?” she asked quietly.

    Shinji, after some seconds, had nodded, sending something like an electric current through Myrtle.

    New life.

    But…everyone knew that true resurrection was…

    “Are you lying?” she hissed.

    “Why would I lie?”

    A second life.

    Myrtle swallowed, as did some of the others who had been listening in on their little tête-à-tête. Just who was Matou Shinji, if his master could do such a thing? No, what was he?

    …and what would be the price for a true second chance?

    None of them asked that of him during the gathering, though many dearly wanted to. But the traditions of hundreds of years were hard to break, and so they listened and talked and spun their yarns, and when they left, it was with a precious gift none of them had known in many, many years.

    Hope.




    Not that Shinji’s own hopes for the Yule Ball – that it would cause no trouble for him – ended up coming true later that day. Not when the next day’s edition of the Daily Prophet prominently featured two pictures on the front page.

    The first, of course, was he and Fleur holding each other close in matching outfits of white and silver, as they danced to open the Yule Ball, almost like a bride and groom at their wedding. The second, however, was far more damning, and featured the part-Veela sleeping contentedly in his arms, with the two nestled together intimately, without a care in the world, under one blanket on the morning after.




    Choice 182: The preliminaries of the Potions Championship are a dangerous, yet exciting time. A time of cooking competitions, brewing challenges, dueling, and general social interaction when one can build alliances, intimidate possible foes, and gather intelligence on one's rivals in the doing of it. Shinji, of course, knows that compared to many of his competitors, he is...perhaps less than well-prepared, and that while he may have an edge over some in combat, there are certainly those who are far beyond him.

    So far, his best chance of making an alliance is to team up with either the Champion of Beauxbatons or the Champion of Mahoutokoro.If he wants to approach any of the others, he'll have to make a good impression.

    It is the first day of the preliminaries, and there are two events planned, though of course, both are optional - a cooking challenge with mystery ingredients, and a round of dueling demonstrations pitting competitors against one another.

    What approach does he take to these each of the activities?

    Cooking: How does he approach this? (choose one)

    [ ] Give his all
    [ ] Do a middling job
    [ ] Choose not to attend
    [ ] See what (write-in) is doing and copy him/her

    Dueling Demonstration: (choose one)

    [ ] Go All Out - Show that he is not to be trifled with
    [ ] Aggressive, but not all-in
    [ ] Focus on endurance - the key is simply not to lose
    [ ] Depends on the battle's flow
    [ ] Choose not to attend

    And...

    Choice 183: Which Champion is he the most curious about?
    [ ] (write-in)

    Last edited by alfheimwanderer; July 18th, 2017 at 03:59 PM.
    "The palaces of kings are built upon the ruins of the bowers of paradise." - Thomas Paine

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